Thursday, May 31, 2012

John Stewart + Sexual Revolution + Life

The title of this lecture is "Religious Freedom and Sexual LIberationism". It was given by Dr. Helen Alvaré, professor of law at George Mason School of Law. She delivers the annual Henkels Lecture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, as part of the Distinguished Speakers Series. Her talk looked at how secular society's interpretation of birth control, co-habitation, and abortion as the new norms has generated an incredible mistrust among the sexes.

Fr. Barron on The Holy Spirit

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Catholic Bishops Who Blog, Tweet, and use Facebook

I tried to track down all of the Bishops, in the USA, who blog, tweet, and use Facebook. This list does not include diocesan staff-run efforts, but only those that are done primarily or solely by the Bishops themselves.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen would be proud of these men.
Bishops Who Blog:
Bishops on Twitter:
Bishops on Facebook:
Also, almost every bishop has a column for their diocesan newspaper and most dioceses have staff that use Facebook and/or Twitter. Some have podcasts and video as well. Glad to see a number of bishops and dioceses using new media. But, we need more and we need better design and content. Some of the diocesan websites are atrocious and some don't use social media at all.

If you know of any others, please leave a link in the comments.

Imagine Being A Religious Sister...

Imagine Sisters is a web and campus-based movement that aims to inspire the imaginations of young women to consider the beautiful call to consecrated life as a sister. With the guiding truth that one sister can change the world, Imagine Sisters strives to connect the world with sisters passionately embracing their call to serve the Lord.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Break From Blogging

The blog is tired, so we are giving it a few days off.

Be back after Memorial Day.
Thanks for reading!

A parting random video:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Adam and Eve After the Pill - A Book Review

  • What harm has come from wide-spread use of contraception?
  • What cultural seeds has The Pill planted?
  • Why is the clear evidence that the sexual revolution has given us more ill than good being ignored?
Mary Eberstadt takes an extremely counter-cultural position in arguing that the sexual revolution's current narrative of the benefits of sexual liberation, contraception, abortion, and moral relativism are all wrong. Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution is a fascinating study into the evidence which shows our unrestrained attitude about sex has resulted in the undermining of the family, individual happiness, and the very fabric of our society.

The book is very fact-based and driven by data. There are no stones she has left un-turned. In addition to the statistics is the honesty and wit of one of my favorite non-fiction authors of modern times. Eberstadt makes diving into cultural studies fascinating. The end result is the evidence clearly shows we have sold our children, and the generations to follow them, a devastating bill of goods we call the sexual revolution. Yet, the leaders in our culture are either ignoring the evidence because it doesn't fit the modern "narrative" of what is good for humanity.

If there is one book the entire culture needs to read (besides the Bible), it might be this one.

What more could I say but you need to read it and pass it on to others.

For a free preview of what you will get in the book, you can read these two illuminating articles:
**The Vindication of Humanae Vitae 
**The Weight of Smut 

Why Contraception Is A Long-Term World-Wide Disaster

80% of people live in countries that have a birth rate of about 2 children per woman. What does this mean? It means the future isn't too bright for our world.

The number of children in the world has peaked and, on the current trend, will not get any higher in the future. The world population will no longer grow after it hits 10 billion.

In the video below, the numbers and trends in fertility rates and how it relates to poverty levels and religion, are discussed by Hans Rosling, an advocate of "family planning".

Rosling tells us that access to "family planning" (read it as "contraception and abortion") is still needed in countries that have a high fertility rate. I disagree. The second video I have below explains why.

Here is the reason the common assumptions and conclusions Hans Rosling gives are wrong (from the Population Research Institute).

We are NOT overpopulated. In fact, we might just be contracepting our future away.

Cardinal Dolan Says The White House is "Strangling" The Church

Money quotes:
"They tell us if you're really going be considered a church, if you're going to be really exempt from these demands of the government, well, you have to propagate your Catholic faith and everything you do, you can serve only Catholics and employ only Catholics"
"When did the government get in the business of defining for us the extent of our ministry? It is almost like we are being punished for the fact that we serve a lot of people and don't ask for baptismal certificates at the door."
"For the first time we can remember a bureau of the federal government seems to be radically intruding into the internal definition of what the Church is. We can't seem to get that across."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Evangelization of Tenderness

Evangelization of Tenderness
By Kristine Cranley
Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). As our students are scattered like seeds across the world this summer, I have been reflecting on this ‘commencement address’ of our Lord to His disciples. Having completed their education at His feet, His followers are sent out with a perennial mission. He assures them they do not go alone, because He will send the Holy Spirit to be with them, to guide them, and to confirm their words through accompanying signs. As we pray the novena to the Holy Spirit this week we make ready our hearts for a deeper outpouring of this same Spirit, whose coming is always simultaneous with being ‘sent’. In this we follow the example of the very first Christian, Our Blessed Mother, who at the moment she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceived Jesus, immediately “arose and went with haste” to care for elderly cousin who was with child.

Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature”. The great St. Francis took this mandate so seriously that when the people refused to hear about Jesus, he preached to the birds. Do we take it seriously? We have a message which the whole world desperately needs. God has become man in order to invite us into communion with Himself through Jesus Christ. This communion with the God who is Infinite Love is the very thing every heart is longing for. The Church is the Bride of Jesus, united so closely with Him as to become His Body, and all are welcome in it. Our communion with Him is salvation and life and joy. This is the ‘good news’ He wants everyone to know, and He has commissioned us to tell them. Thus, no matter how we may be spending our summer, we are called to evangelize (a word deriving from the Greek euangelion which means announcing the ‘evangel, good news, gospel’) in the place the Lord has planted us.

How then, should this evangelization look? Are we responsible for telling every person we meet this summer about Jesus? Should we wear our Aggie Catholic t-shirts to work? Do we have an obligation to engage in conversation with our neighbor on the airplane, in order to make sure he knows the ‘good news’? Should we keep a tally of the ‘number of souls brought to Christ’ this summer; perhaps make a competition out of it between friends, in the style of Legolas and Gimli?

The Holy Spirit is infinitely creative, and we never know how He may inspire us to share the gospel this summer. However, the danger in some of the above approaches is in subconsciously making other people into our ‘project’: someone whom we need to ‘fix’ … ‘for God’s sake’. As a friend of mine once put it “You love me because you love Jesus? Spare me.” We are not projects but people. For the majority of us, we need to know we are truly loved and reverenced by the messenger before our hearts can open up to the message. We need to perceive clearly that someone is showing an interest in us, not just because they are good, but because they believe we are.

“I will show you a still more excellent way”
-1 Corinthians 12:31

The Holy Spirit, who sends us out on mission, is Himself Love. Hence we recognize His work in us by the fragrance of the love He pours into our hearts. He moves us to “share … not only the gospel of God but also our very selves” because those whom with we share it “become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8) In the words of Pope Benedict XVI “Practical activity will always be insufficient unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ. My deep personal sharing in the needs and sufferings of others becomes a sharing of my very self with them: if my gift is not to prove a source of humiliation, I must give to others not only something that is my own but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift.” (Deus Caritas Est #34) It is in this way that we most effectively ‘incarnate’ the good news of the love of Jesus. Through the tenderness, genuineness and reverence of our interactions with others, we begin the proclamation of the gospel, and make hearts ready to receive its full transmission in word and sacrament.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples” the Lord tells us. You can post it on facebook, tweet it, and tell everyone you encounter, but it should be old news to them by that point. They should already know it “because of the love you have for one another”. (John 13:35)

Apostles of Tenderness

The evangelizing power of tenderness was something brought home to me through my experience discerning with the Sisters of Life, a religious community who take a fourth vow to enhance a sense of the sacredness of human life. Before meeting the Sisters, I was overburdened by the belief that it was my personal responsibility to convert the world. The Sisters however were much more humble than myself, and understood that evangelization is ultimately God’s work, and not ours. Thus they did their part and trusted Him to do the rest.

As one of their apostolates, the Sisters invite pregnant women to live with them in their convent during their time of need. The Sisters make no requirements about faith commitment for their guests. Neither do they feel overburdened to speak to them explicitly about their faith in Christ. Rather they seek primarily to incarnate the love of Jesus to them through personal and authentic relationship. They wait until the women begin asking the questions themselves, “always prepared to make a defense to any one who calls [them] to account for the hope that is in [them], …with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15) Their love for Him, and for their guests however, speaks volumes.

The amazing and courageous women who live with them, in turn become apostles of tenderness themselves. Below is the story of one such guest, as recounted in an interview in their newsletter. May it bless you as it has blessed me!
Racquel’s Story

I hear that you had a life-changing elevator ride while you were pregnant. Can you tell me about it?

I was in the hospital elevator on my way to a doctor’s appointment. Another woman got on with me; I said hello and she burst out crying and told me that she was pregnant. I said, “Congratulations! I’m pregnant too.” She explained that she just couldn’t do it right now; it wasn’t the right time. Then I felt Liam move and I placed her hand on my belly, “Do you feel that?!” Right at that moment my baby kicked her. She said, “Wow!” I said, “Yeah, my baby’s gonna be a linebacker. He’s gonna be strong and he’s gonna be blessed.” And she said, “Why is he gonna be blessed?” I said because he’s here – whether you cry or you laugh, if you’re here you’re blessed. You’re put here for a reason.” And she said, “I’m gonna get an abortion.” And I said, “No you’re not. You’re not going to have an abortion; you are going to have a girl. I know that already because I wanted to have a girl, but I’m having a boy, but that’s OK – you have your girl and dress her up in pink. Put pony tails in her hair and call her Racquel, and by the way, my middle name is Jasmine. And if she asks you how she got her name tell her you met a fabulous lady who was pregnant on the elevator one day and she told you that you were going to have a beautiful little girl.” She laughed and then we got off the elevator together and I walked her down to make an appointment with my obstetrician. You see, I can be pushy.

Did you stay in touch with her?

No. I didn’t see her again until two years later at the same hospital. She was pushing a stroller and ran up to me and hugged me. She had twins - two girls - and their names are Racquel and Jasmine and she had them all dressed up in pink, just like I told her. She made it. She said, “I love you. You don’t understand Racquel I love you. I love you. I love you. I’ll never forget your name, your face, your smile. I would do anything for you. I love you.” And I said, “I love you too. I understand. I have experienced it.”

BREAKING: Over 40 Catholic Dioceses and Organizations Coordinate and File 12 Different Lawsuits Against HHS Mandate

This is going to be very interesting:
The archdiocese of New York, headed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., headed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the University of Notre Dame, and 40 other Catholic dioceses and organizations around the country announced on Monday that they are suing the Obama administration for violating their freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The dioceses and organizations, in different combinations, are filing 12 different lawsuits filed in federal courts around the country.

The suits focus on the regulation that Sebelius announced last August and finalized in January that requires virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including those that can cause abortions.
Continue Reading.

Cardinal Dolan issued a press release on the lawsuits:
“We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there's still no fix. Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now. Though the Conference is not a party to the lawsuits, we applaud this courageous action by so many individual dioceses, charities, hospitals and schools across the nation, in coordination with the law firm of Jones Day. It is also a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty. It's also a great show of the diversity of the Church's ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate – ministries to the poor, the sick, and the uneducated, to people of any faith or no faith at all.”
Continue Reading.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Contraception As Hurtful For Environment as Asbestos and Styrofoam

Something to think about.
When a new synthetic substance is created, or a naturally occurring substance is generated at greatly increased levels, the effects can be far longer-lasting and wider-reaching than its manufacturers predict or intend. Some well-known examples of this include asbestos, a popular insulation and flame retardant in the late 19th century, which was later discovered to be carcinogenic; and polystyrene foams like Styrofoam, which is frequently used in disposable packaging, yet takes hundreds of years to break down once discarded. In the case of oral contraceptives, the key ingredients are synthetic hormones known as progestins, which mimic progesterone, either alone or combined with estrogen. When used therapeutically in contraceptive pills or in hormone replacement treatments for menopause, these synthetic hormones make their way into the water supply after being excreted in the patients’ urine. As environmental contaminants, these are referred to as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), due to the fact that they interfere with the endocrine systems of humans and animals alike following exposure.

While its impact is still being widely studied, there is no doubt that the exposure is occurring: multiple international studies have documented elevated levels of natural and synthetic hormones in drinking water, and one such study conducted in France noted that progestins in particular were more resistant to removal by water treatment methods, compared with other types of pharmaceuticals (3).

Due to the accumulation of synthetic steroids in water, much of the research conducted on its impact has been done using water-dwelling vertebrates such as fish and frogs. An ever-increasing collection of studies report harmful effects of these hormones on aquatic vertebrates, particularly with regard to their reproduction, as would be predicted given the nature of the contaminants (4). One study focused on the effects of exposure to the progestin Levonorgestrel (LNG) on the frog Xenopus tropicalis. While the male reproductive system did not appear to be impaired, female tadpoles exhibited severe defects in the development of their ovaries and oviducts, rendering them sterile (5).

Continue Reading.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

10 Ways to Study and Pray With The Bible

I am commonly asked how a Catholic might start reading or praying with Sacred Scripture. Therefore, I decided to introduce you to a range of different ways to read, study, and pray with the Bible. I hope you find it helpful.

These ten methods are not the only ways to study and pray with Scripture, but merely some of the most popular ways.

I did not include one way that is used alongside other prayers - The Liturgy of the Hours. It is also an excellent way to pray with Scripture, but I decided to focus on those kind of prayers that are solely using Scripture. The Liturgy of the Hours uses other forms of prayer along with Scripture.


1 - Read and pray with the Lectionary.
Many Catholics, including my family, like to read the Scriptures they will hear in the Liturgy of The Word before and/or after they attend Mass.

Some subscribe to periodicals that make it easier for them to have the readings and may also include mediations on the readings. These include, The Magnificat, The Word Among Us, and Living Faith.

2 - Big Picture Study
There are some very nice resources that will help you get the "big picture" of the story of salvation. One of the best resources, though it is very expensive, is The Great Adventure series by Jeff Cavins. We do have this series here at St. Mary's, but do not keep it in the library, due to the expense of having to replace it if it isn't returned. Other resources include some nice courses from St. Paul's Center for Biblical Theology.

3 - In-Depth Study With Commentaries
There are many good commentaries that can help you study one book of The Bible at a time. Maybe you have an interest in the Psalms, Revelation, or Romans. While this can be a more expensive way to study the Bible, but you can find most of my recommendations below in St. Mary's Library. With this kind of study you can get in-depth study into language, cross-references, culture, etc. Some of my favorite series of in-depth studies include the Navarre Bible, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (only New Testament has been released so far), and the Sacra Pagina series.

4 - Thematic Study
Thematic studies will focus on a certain theme (e.g. Men's Bible study, social justice Bible study, Bible study on patience, Marian Bible study) and bring together the different passages that focus on that issue. Many Catholic publishers have various kinds of thematic studies. We have a wide-variety in our library.

5 - Cover-to-Cover Study
I don't necessarily recommend this method of reading The Bible, especially for those that aren't very familiar with Sacred Scriptures. This is because many people get bogged down in some of the Old Testament books that have difficult passages or less interesting parts. There are a number of resources that can give you a 1, 2, or 3 year plan to read the entire Bible. One good one is from the Coming Home Network which give Catechism passages as well.

6 - Use The Four Senses and Three Criteria for Interpretation Given By The Church
These can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The four senses are:
  1. Literal sense - is to understand what the human author intended to teach and what his audience understood. Does NOT mean “word-for-word” interpretation. We consider - language / culture / type of literature / human authors understanding of world, relationships, etc.

    Three layers to the Spiritual sense:
  2. Allegorical sense -Some call this Typology. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, which looks toward the New and should be read in light of it.
  3. Moral sense - Personal - we have to apply the text to our lives. Thus, what does this passage mean for my life? How should I live in light of this truth?
  4. Anagogical sense - Also personal, but a more spiritual sense, not active – but contemplative. Points us to heaven.
The Three Criteria for Interpretation are (CCC 111-114):

  1. Be especially attentive "to the content and unity of the whole Scripture."
  2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church."
  3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith. – See with eyes of faith

1 - Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina means "Divine (or holy) reading". There are several different methodologies to Lectio Divina, but the basics include reading the Scripture passage slowly several times, quiet meditation, response in prayer, and quiet reflection and rest in God's presence. More can be found here.

2 - Imagination / Understanding / Love
First, use your imagination to place yourself in the scene described in the passage you are reading. Then try to understand how this passage applies to you. Then move your heart to love God more.

3 - Pray / Read / Reflect / Resolve
Following this simple formula we start to try and conform our lives to Sacred Scripture. We start with a prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to inspire us. Next, there should be slow reading of the passage. We then spend a good time reflecting on the passage and finally we make a resolution to draw closer to God in whatever way we are drawn to.

4 - Praying / Singing The Psalms
The Psalms were once memorized by the Israelites as a devotion to Yahweh. We also can pray the Psalms by singing them or praying with them through recitation and meditation on them.

Other Links of interest:
**Good Catholic Bible Studies
**Best Bible Translations
**The Dos and Don'ts of Reading the Bible
**100 Catholic Ways to Pray

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Does The Term "Gay" Diminishes a Person?

Mark Barnes argues it does

NOTE - his language is blunt but not hurtful:
If you think these are days in which women are objectified, well, you’d be right. The crown jewel of evolution is used to sell cars. But women have nothing – infinitesimally small potatoes, really — on the ridiculous amount of objectification and abstraction heaped upon men with same-sex attraction. Let’s break it down.

First, we’ve got the names we call these gentlemen. If the names come spewing forth from the homophobe, the objectification is obvious: Faggot, queer, fruit — all these terms are designed to make a total, negative definition, a non-existent and detestable class in which to place a human being: “You’re not a man, you’re a queer! And all queers hate Jesus and can be ignored.” Because as we all know,

If the names come from the super-with-the-times gay rights activist, then they’re incredibly worse, though admittedly more subtle. The Activists are forever encouraging men with SSA to “accept your identity!”, “come out!”, and to otherwise claim the title of Gay Man. It’s just another brilliant form of objectification.

Because the last time I checked, the unique identity of man is not defined by where he wants to put his penis. Identity is not gained, nor will it ever fulfill, if it is no more than a great narrowing of the human person to a single characteristic — in this case his sexual characteristic. Gay Man? Really? No one demands heterosexuals to “accept their identity” and define themselves as Straight Men. Such a thing would be a grave insult to the fantastic complexity of their being. Yet this is the modus operandi of the Activist, and the end goal given to the high-school kid with same-sex attraction — to come out of the closet and love himself for Who He Is.

(And yes, of course I realize there is no stigma against being a heterosexual. That’s not the point here. The point is that our super-cool-culture, in its drive to be accepting, tolerant and all the rest, has decided to defend the Gay Man and largely ignore that beautiful, noble piece of work — the actual man.)

Continue Reading.

Fr. Barron on Religious Liberty

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Would You Go To Jail With Your Bishop?

The Roamin' Catholic asks us all a question.
It’s not often happened, in my lifetime, that the U.S. government would flatly require what God forbids, or forbid what God requires. Usually political judgments have had to do with teaspoon measuring and prudential reasoning, sorting and bargaining and trade-offs of competing goods. The policy picture is made by pencil: we sketch and erase, we compare estimated costs and benefits of differing public policies. These things are negotiable; and the negotiation is called politics.

So it was most shocking, in the first few months of 2012, for American Catholics to face not the usual shading, tinting and cross-hatching, but a true black-and-white crisis. Through the HHS “Contraceptive Mandate,” Catholic institutions would be required to subsidize in practice programs and policies which we utterly -- morally, ethically, religiously --- reject in conscience. We faced not “politics”, but coercive force which threatened the existence of every Catholic institution in the United States.

As I write, some temporary abatement seems likely: the U.S. Supreme Court may strike down the huge, lumbering, tractor-treaded “Obamacare” machine in its entirety. Or the Court may knock out its key part, its money engine, the “Individual Mandate,” which would eventually collapse the entire Federal health insurance apparatus.

But what if the Supreme Court fails us?

Or what if the legal authority of HHS director Kathleen Sebelius to define and enforce nationwide insurance policy requirements somehow survives the wreckage?

Or what if the Obama Administration or some successor Administration tries to re-impose mandatory contraception/abortion coverage by separate legislation at a later date?

I am convinced that even the most favorable Supreme Court ruling will not prevent such crises from cropping up again and again in the near future. We will no longer being asked to tolerate evils: we will be ordered to participate in them: as payers first, then as providers.

And since Catholic institutions can not both forbid sins and offer them as benefits, most Catholic commentators narrow the possible Catholic response to only two: don’t offer any health coverage at all, and pay the resultant fines, or shut down.

“Wait a minute,” you might say. “Couldn’t we, as a temporary tactical expedient, simply pay (in the case of Obamacare) the damned insurance--- ---- to buy time to mobilize our forces, and fight?

"Couldn’t we do so under protest, while launching noisy campaigns on the electoral, legislative, and judicial fronts to change the mandate? Couldn’t we do it while attacking politicians who support the mandate, networking with state governments and other allies to overturn it, and suing every HHS official in the country?

"Couldn’t we go along with it for a time, but only in order to survive, fight, and win?”

The answer, I think, is “No.”


Monday, May 14, 2012

Reflections On The Questions Of Modesty

A Breakdown of Communication:

Reflections on the Question of Modesty

by Kristine Cranley

I’ll never forget my shock when in college a friend admitted to me that he found it difficult when women wore white shirts to Mass because you could often see one’s bra straps through them. I had never thought to check! I thanked him for the information, and thanked God I wasn’t wearing a white shirt at that moment!

Or when my own brother discretely told me that my smashing new white pants were … well … see through. “When girls wear white pants” he informed me authoritatively, “guys check”.

Or, perhaps most embarrassing of all, the time a man asked me to stop wearing ‘midriff shirts’ to Mass. I was too embarrassed to admit I didn’t know what a midriff shirt was. (I have since googled it and am quite certain that I have never owned a midriff shirt, but my pants that fateful day had been a little loose and fallen below my shirt line, and he had noticed).

Too loose. Too tight. Too low. Too high. Who teaches us about these things anymore?

I thank God for the men who have been courageous enough to share with me the ways my clothing has affected them. Certainly we are all responsible for guarding our eyes from what might cause us to sin. And yet I’m confident that most of you ladies reading this desire to help our brothers in Christ to live purity of heart, just as we are grateful when they help us to do the same. But how are we to learn to love each other well in this regard?

I don’t know about you, but I certainly would have preferred to have been enlightened by another woman beforehand rather than having been ‘called out’ on my midriff infraction. When did women stop handing on this information to one another? In my naïveté I have made a number of unknowing, yet no less embarrassing, errors in my judgment on clothing. I have met countless other women who recount to me similar experiences. Hence, as the Texas heat descends upon us this summer, and the ending of the school year finally allows us the luxury of shopping for our summer wardrobes, I wanted to offer you a few thoughts on modesty of dress, in hopes that some of my embarrassing moments will spare you of your own!

Why Modesty?
First of all, I want to assert that the reason we dress modestly is NOT because our feminine bodies are bad or ugly or intrinsically ‘occasions of sin’. Simultaneously, it is NOT because all men think about is sex, or that they are incapable of looking at us without lust. Rather modesty involves speaking the truth with our bodies. While women are generally aroused through emotional warmth or physical touch, men are aroused through visual stimuli. Whether we intend to or not, revealing too much of our bodies sends a message that we are sexually available to them. As one young man recently explained to a group of women here at St. Mary’s, “there are two steps to having sex. Taking off one’s clothes and actually having sex. If someone is already half undressed, it’s difficult for one’s mind not to go to the second step”.

But meanwhile, the world seems ‘hell-bent’ on destroying in women a proper sense of what is and is not modest. Has not modern day fashion slowly desensitized us to exposing almost every part of our body that can possibly be exposed? One style may show off more and more of the leg, another the chest, the navel, the back, etc., so that slowly we’ve become increasingly comfortable with having any or every part of our bodies revealed to the public. Is it possible to wear any less clothing than a string bikini? Even being clad in solely our undergarments would cover more than many swimsuits do nowadays.

It is true that norms of modesty do shift somewhat from culture to culture. There have been cultures where women have never worn shirts and therefore their being topless was not considered sexually suggestive for the men in their society. But question of importance for us today is what message do our outfits, in our present culture and day, send to the men we are blessed to know and love?

Survey Says
Personally, I have found the responses given on the ‘modesty survey’ extremely enlightening in this regard. This survey anonymously interviewed men seeking to live chastity on their views regarding women’s clothing. Their answers were astounding. The following is a sample of some of the survey questions, followed by the men’s responses (emphasis original):

  • Girls can dress attractively without being immodest. 98% agree/str. agree
    • Age 20 - I actually had a T.A. in one of my classes who was a beautiful woman who dressed modestly, and I had trouble paying attention to anyone but her! Her clothing never caused me to stumble and never once did I have a physical reaction to her. Instead, my heart warmed (maybe even fluttered a few times hehe) and it just made me smile. There's also a young woman from my home town who I've known for some time who has MASTERED this art. She is just gorgeous....wait, I'm rambling.... sorry. But see what I mean? The women who dress modestly AND attractively leave a much longer lasting impression on men.
    • Age 20 - There is a huge difference between being beautiful and being hot. Beauty is being attractive for who the girl is as a person. Hot is being attractive as nothing more than sex appeal.
  • Showing any cleavage is immodest. – 70% agree/str. agree
    • Age 40-49 - I find it totally distracting. It's EVERYTHING I can do to keep my eyes on her eyes when cleavage is showing.
    • Age 22 - Why? Why must you? What is your reasoning for doing it? You can be fashionable with out doing it, so why?
    • Age 20 - This is the biggest thing which causes me to fall.
  • Immodest clothing is not a problem (for you) when a girl in your own family wears it. – 21% agree/str. agree
    • Age 24 - Maybe I am alone in this, but my "Hey! Female skin!" radar doesn't stop to check DNA first
    • Age 16 - I radically disagree. It does not matter if the girl is my sister or not, it is still an assault on godly beauty, and my chastity. You see, what lust (and the whole industry that is producing all the magazines you see at the grocery store and worse) does, is it takes away the personhood of the object of lust. So then, immodesty in a mind surrendered to evil turns the woman into a thing -- it removes personality, true beauty, being made in God's image, and leaves only a thing that satisfies evil desires. Therefore, because of how destructive lust is it does matter that my sister and my best friend dress modestly.
  • Bending over so that cleavage is visible down the front of the shirt or dress is a stumbling block. 90% agree/str. agree
    • Age 16 - Um... Yes. That image usually sticks in my head for weeks.
    • Age 21 - I cannot agree stronger. This is a big one for me. It would appear some shirt are MADE to do this. I appreciate it when girls hold there hand to their chest as they bend over. It demonstrates not only a respect for themselves, but also to me.
  • General comments to women
    • Age 24 - Sisters in Christ, you really have no concept of the struggles that guys face on a daily basis. Please, please, please take a higher standard in the ways you dress. True, we men are responsible for our thoughts and actions before the Lord, but it is such a blessing when we know that we can spend time with our sisters in Christ, enjoying their fellowship without having to constantly be on guard against ungodly thoughts brought about by the inappropriate ways they sometimes dress. In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul presents believers as the members of one body - we have to work together. Every Christian has a special role to play in the body of Christ. That goal is to bring glory to the Savior through an obedient, unified body of believers - please don't hurt that unity by dressing in ways that may tempt your brothers in Christ to stumble.
    • Age 26 - In high school, the place of greatest temptation toward lust was my church. Girls wore things to church that they thought were fashionable and dressy, but they would not have passed the dress code at my public high school. Church should NEVER be a guy's greatest source of temptation, in any way. Please, be especially careful when picking out your dress clothes for church, and make sure they are modest when sitting and kneeling (if you kneel in church), not just standing in front of the mirror. 

In summary: cleavage, tight pants, short shorts, the infamous ‘midriff shirts’, exposed backs or bra straps: all these things compromise the grace-filled beauty of our feminine presence to our brothers in the Lord.

Listening to men about their concerns and struggles has made me more aware of things that wouldn't naturally occur to me. For instance, remembering to hold my hand on an otherwise modest wide neck shirt when I bow to receive the Eucharist. Making sure I check both the front and the back of my outfits in the mirror, as well as skirt length when I’m sitting. Checking to see if my sleeveless shirts have arm holes that allow one to see in my shirt when I move my arms. Or being aware of keeping my legs crossed or closed when wearing a skirt and sitting across from others.

Does Modesty Compromise Beauty?
It is important to note that dressing modestly doesn’t mean looking sloppy or unfashionable or ‘frumpy’ (do people still use that word or am I dating myself?). When I was leaving the religious community I spent a number of years discerning with, the sisters there gave me strict orders: “not to dress so that people say ‘Oh yeah, she used to be a nun, that’s why she dresses that way’”. It can be a challenge to dress becomingly in this culture whose fashions often militate against modesty, but I have witnessed many women whose modest dress is fashionable and stunning, as befits their dignity as a women. They have also taught me to be much more creative with wonderful accessories like scarves, camis, sweaters, leggings, boots and the like. Along with the magic of transforming an immodest outfit into a modest one, they are also a great way to accentuate one’s unique personality.

So how do we know?
Modesty questions aren’t always black and white. How much is too short, too tight, too low, too revealing? What about bathing suits? Which ones and under what circumstances are considered modest? I won’t attempt to answer this definitively. Rather, I believe these questions are best answered in dialogue with our brothers in Christ.

However I will leave you with one adage which you might want to carry with you as you hit the outlet malls this first week of summer: dress in a way that allows them notice the beauty of your face.

And for all you ladies who are going home for the summer, we are certainly going to miss those beautiful, gentle, kind, vibrant faces of yours around here! And equally yours beloved brothers in the Lord! You are in our heartfelt prayers! We miss you already.

**Top 10 Reasons Men Should Practice Custody of the Eyes
**Top 10 Reasons Women Should Dress Modestly
**Facebook + Bathing Suits = Bad Idea

Friday, May 11, 2012

How To Become A Saint

St. Augustine has this to say to us about how we can become Saints.

1 - Humility is the key to growing spiritually:
"Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation."
2 - We all need to forgive and be forgiven:
Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again.
3 - Suffering can be the path to goodness and holiness:
God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist.
4 - With virtue, there is freedom:
He that is kind is free, though he is a slave; he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.
5 - Our work and prayer will help us grow closer to God:
Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.
6 - Love is a choice:
What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.
7 - Those who remain faithful will see God face-to-face:
Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.

Would You Abort This Baby?

Some people said this woman should have had an abortion.
Probably the same people that say the decision is for a woman and her doctor alone...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Epic Medley Is Epic

Generation XXX

Several years ago I got to know the mother of a young woman who is a sex addict. She was a friend of a friend of mine and I was asked to talk to the mother about the problem to see if I could give any advice. I went to lunch with the mom and corresponded with her afterward, and still do. I gave her some resources and suggested the young woman seek out help. They did. Through the Theology of the Body and a 12-step group + accountability, she has become sexually sober.

The daughter, a recovering sex addict, is now working with a group called Fight The New Drug, which describes itself in this way:
Learning from the past, Fight the New Drug takes a non-legislative, non-judgmental approach. We recognize an individual's right to view and produce pornography, however, once they are educated on the harmful effects of pornography we believe they will choose to avoid it. We only wish to educate about the negative effects of pornography on individuals, families, and businesses.

In our research, we've found that many people, especially Americans, automatically assume that the anti-pornography movement is at odds with First Amendment freedoms. Under that perception, people are asked to weigh the importance of free speech against the damaging effects of pornography. Fight the New Drug rejects this perception and we will position ourselves as anti-porn, pro-free speech.

Fight the New Drug's message is based on science and facts. In a sense, science is an international currency. We explain why porn is harmful by educating people about the negative psychological and physical reactions it causes. We do not affiliate ourselves with any religious groups or political agendas.

This movement is the result of many years spent developing ideas and researching the effects of pornography. Taking a fresh approach to the issue, we're a non-profit organization dedicated to help the young generation educate itself with the facts on pornography. We hope you will join us in this fight.
Because the group organizes itself in this way, they are able to get into public schools and other places that faith-based groups cannot. While unable to teach the principles of the theology of the body, this young woman is making a difference in our culture - fighting against the over-sexualization of children and the scourge of pornography.

The group, and the young lady - Breanne - were recently featured in a NIGHTLINE episode. You can watch it here. It turned out nicely.

Monday, May 7, 2012

21st Century Slavery - What it Looks Like and What We Can Do About It

Human Merchandise, Broken Lives
By Clotilde Pichon - St. Mary’s Director of Social Ministries 
and Gerry Hince - St. Mary’s Director of RCIA

Slavery is alive and well…in 2012. It took an amendment to our constitution to free the slaves … and still they exist. It took a civil war for all men to be freed ….but still many are kept in captivity. It took an Alabama lady, a group of Arkansas students and a march on Washington…but still people are in bondage. Human trafficking is alive and well in the world and it is time that we, as Catholics, open our eyes and realize that it does exist and we need to do something about it. We have this vision of what is right and good in the world, but we see very little of the very evil that continues to exist. The purpose of this Matthew 25 is to create awareness about human trafficking, a contemporary form of slavery.

S. Korea Fights Imports of "Human Flesh Capsules" From China

Pray for our world.
This might turn your stomach.South Korea says it will increase customs inspections targeting capsules containing powdered human flesh.

The Korea Customs Service said it had found almost 17,500 of the capsules being smuggled into the country from China since August 2011.

The powdered flesh, which officials said came from dead babies and foetuses, is reportedly thought by some to cure disease and boost stamina.

But officials said the capsules were full of bacteria and a health risk.

"It was confirmed those capsules contain materials harmful to the human body, such as super bacteria. We need to take tougher measures to protect public health," a customs official was quoted as saying by the Korea Times.

Inspections are to be stepped up on shipments of drugs arriving from north-east China, Yonhap news agency reported.

The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said that capsules were being dyed or switched into boxes of other drugs in a bid to disguise them.

Some of the capsules were found in travellers' luggage and some in the post, customs officials said.

Allegations that human flesh capsules were being trafficked from north-east China into South Korea emerged last year in a South Korean television documentary.

At the time China's Health Ministry said it was investigating the claims raised by the programme.

Ministry spokesman Deng Haihua, quoted at the time in China Daily, said China had "strict management of disposal of infant and foetal remains as well as placentas".
Continue Reading.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Socialism, the Bible and the Catholic Church

Q – Could you please discuss what interpretation the church has for Acts 2:44-45 and whether this in any way promotes a socialist economic theory or mindset?

A – First, let me put up the passage you are referring to.
“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need.” (Acts 2:44-45)
We can see from this passage, and from others (as well as historical evidence), that many (though not all) Christians lived in a form of society where belongings are shared with others in their group. But, one thing we must be very careful not to do is to translate the Bible into a political statement. Socialism is a form of governmental policy, not a statement on how Christians should support one another. Notice there was no government enforcing this form of society, it was purely voluntary. So, I would be careful to call it “socialism” at all – which is state-ownership of property and means of production.

The Church has never said that one form of government or economic system is the only one we should support. In fact, it warns against the evils that threaten the common good present in all governmental systems. What it does do is proclaim the truths that all governments and economic systems should adhere to. But, any form of government which is compatible with the common good is allowable.
“Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all. . . . Every human community needs an authority to govern it. . . . Its role is to ensure as far as is possible the common good of the society.” (CCC 1897-1898)
The only form of government / economic system the Church has said is incompatible with Christianity is Communism. This is because it does not seek the common good and denies the basic rights of human persons. This is because Communism is an officially atheistic, totalitarian government, and by definition cannot seek what is good for the human person, who has as the greatest good, the search for God. Pope John Paul II wrote:
“the class struggle in the Marxist sense and militarism have the same root, namely, atheism and contempt for the human person, which place the principle of force above that of reason and law.” (Centisimus Annus, 14)
The Catechism states:
“Regimes whose nature is contrary to the natural law, to the public order, and to the fundamental rights of persons cannot achieve the common good of the nations on which they have been imposed.” (CCC 1901)
“The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with "communism" or "socialism." She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of "capitalism," individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market."Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended..” (CCC 2425)
While some forms of socialism, republic, and democracy are valid forms of government, they need to guard against seeing man as a mere means of production or as an end to a means.

One Catholic social justice principle, that is almost unknown by most Catholics, that I think can shed some light on this subject is call subsidiarity. That is, that the lower-level organizations should not have their power usurped by higher-level ones. For instance, the family is the original place of education and that authority of the parents to educate their children should not be taken away by a local school district, state, or federal government. Those higher-level organizations need to support and help the lower-level ones, but not supersede their authority.

In the same way we are to support one another and the federal government needs to allow us (and support our efforts to do so) and then if it has to, be a safety net for those that “fall through the cracks”.

So, I would have to answer your question with a no. We cannot see the Bible passage as promoting a kind of socialism. But, it does promote generosity and helping others in whatever ways we need to accomplish that. One way is what is put forward in the passage – giving all we have to be shared with others.

Do You Text & Drive?

Some stats:

  • Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.
  • Using a cell phone while driving - whether it's hand-held or hands-free delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. 

More here.

Chinese Pro-Life Activist is Ignored By US Administration

This is despicable. A political activist, fighting against a God-less regime in China, with his life in danger, is ignored by the USA Administration and sold out by them. This is terrible and shameful. The reason he is being disowned?
He is a pro-life activist who battles against forced abortion.
The pro-abortion administration tells the pro-life activist that he is on his own...

He also says the US lied to him.

Pray for him and pray for our leaders.

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is in China and has completely ignored him.